One thing Instagram users do not need is an excuse to post a picture of their pet(s).
Fair enough, because pets are the greatest and should be loved and treasured at every opportunity.
Throw in the added benefit of doing something good for simply posting on social media, and you have a really potent mix.
Enter the ‘Plant a tree for every pet picture’ pledge, which has been all over Instagram these past few days.
Usually, when something appears too good to be true, it is, and that’s the case with this viral trend.
Below via NBC News:
An online campaign that promised to plant a tree for every pet photo posted to Instagram “spread out of control,” its creator said Tuesday after it was shared more than 4.1 million times…
The creator behind the Instagram account Plant A Tree Co. took responsibility for the campaign but said the post was deleted 10 minutes after it was created because he “didn’t have the resources to plant that many trees.”
The man, Zack Saadioui, 23, of Boca Raton, Florida, said he was experimenting with the new sticker feature on Nov. 2, a day after it launched, without properly understanding how it worked.
Plant A Tree Co. posted this explanation to its account shortly afterwards, talking about raising funds for Trees for the Future:
View this post on Instagram
Plant A Tree Co. did say they’re not affiliated with Trees for the Future, and that point was made clear in an Instagram Story from the latter:
But at least money is being raised for a good cause, right?
Well, it turns out this Instagram account has a rather dubious history, as outlined by Pedestrian:
An article written in early 2020 by Odyssey claims that Plant A Tree Co. is, in fact, a scam. Hell, even ‘Fake Website Buster’ lists the site as a likely scam site.
Apparently, Plant A Tree Co. promised to plant “100 trees” for every repost of a since-deleted Instagram pic in 2019, then in 2020 they posted a picture of a kangaroo during the Australian bushfires, and promised to give a dollar to the NSW Rural Fire Service for everyone who shared it. The kangaroo pic gained 2 million likes, but has also been deleted.
Odyssey claims that Plant A Tree Co. have done similar things after the death of George Floyd in America, promoting graphic posts in order to raise money for Black Lives Matter causes. The company has also allegedly performed a similar social media campaign for Stop Asian Hate causes. The catch is, for your donations to ‘count’, you have to follow the account. It’s shady as hell.
The Plant A Tree Co. website has no information regarding who runs the company, where it’s based, and what it actually does.
This post from June of last year outlines some of the shady past ‘campaigns’ it has run:
View this post on Instagram
The Plant A Tree Co. website does talk about ‘free necklaces’ on the home page. Yeah, about that:
There is no mention of the proceeds from these sales going towards charity. Yes, they do generate revenue from these necklaces, because even though the giveaway is supposedly free, there is an $8.95 shipping fee that is added at checkout.
And guess what the company is doing right now? A free necklace and bracelet giveaway.
Saadioui, who was identified as being behind the account following an investigation by freelance journalist Patrick Marlborough (watch a summary of that investigation here), has responded to claims that he is running a scam.
He released a statement to CNET:
“There have been a lot of accusations about Plant A Tree Co.,” he said in a statement to CNET, “and I understand where they’re coming from, as we have made unintentional mistakes in the past.
“It all stemmed from our first viral post that we never anticipated would grow so big in 2019, when I was 21 years old and a junior in college. We addressed it, stopped the post and stated that it would be impossible to plant. Unfortunately, this set a negative tone for the brand which I truly intended to be for a great cause.”
…”We never touch any of the funds raised and it goes directly to the Instagram approved charity,” he said. “This has been very effective due to the viral nature of these fundraisers, and through our platform we have managed to raise over $500k total for several charities.”
He did show CNET a list of donations he has made, which included a $3 173 donation to the NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donation Fund.
That still falls well short of what was promised when that 2020 post went viral.
So, chances are you didn’t help plant a tree with your pet picture.
But you had fun doing it, and it made you feel good about yourself, so there’s that.
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